Smoke detectors help family escape house fire

Combustibles near hot water heater may have caused fire
Feb. 14, 2013 @ 07:53 PM

Smoke detectors helped prevent a house fire from becoming a tragedy.

Thomasville Fire Department responded to a residential fire at 100 New York Drive shortly after midnight Thursday  after receiving an emergency call that smoke was coming from a two-story home. A mother and her two children escaped the home with no injuries, but the house suffered extensive damage.

“Thank goodness there were no injuries,” Thomasville Fire Inspector Rocky Watts said. “The call came in right near midnight. Our first engine on arrival got there at 12:07 a.m.”

Tamika McLean, who was sleeping next to her 3-year-old, awoke to the sound of smoke detectors after a fire started in the family room. Watts said McLean’s 16-year-old daughter prevented further loss to the home by shutting the family room door and isolating the fire. McLean’s finance was working at the time of the fire.

“The fire had started spreading while they were sleeping,” said Watts. “The smoke detectors going off and being interconnected did a lot to wake the family up so they could escape. If they hadn’t had the smoke detectors, this thing could’ve been a whole lot worse.”

Flames managed to spread through some of ventilation system and into the attic, causing an estimated $60,000 worth of damage to the 1,400-square-foot home.

A preliminary investigation points to a water heater as a probable cause of the fire. Watts said combustible household materials such as jackets and magazines near the water heater may have come in contact with the heating element and ignited.

“We think the materials around this water heater had something to do with it,” Watts said. “They had removed the cover plate to hit the reset switch back in December and never put it back on. We think it was either a short on the water heater itself or the combustible materials were touching the element.”

Watts said it’s important to keep anything combustible at least three feet away from a water heater.

McLean’s neighbor, Luke Botelho, said he started hearing sirens about midnight. Botelho’s wife, Sara Neese, gave the family shoes and coats.

“Smoke was pouring out,” Botelho said of the home in the Colonial Village subdivision off Unity Street.

Watts said the Greater High Point-Davidson Chapter of the Red Cross is assisting the family in the fire’s aftermath. The couple has homeowner’s insurance. Fairgrove Fire Department also responded to the scene.

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or